I know not I Did you notice the time when you were there?
It must have been about five or ten minutes past one. I wonder what your ladyship is thinking about, he added, for evidently the fair ladys thoughts were very far away, and she had not been listening to his intellectual conversation.
But indeed her thoughts were not very far away; only one storey below, in this same house, in the dining- room where sat Chauvelin still on the watch. Had he failed? For one instant that possibility rose before her as a hopethe hope that the Scarlet Pimpernel had been warned by Sir Andrew, and that Chauvelins trap had failed to catch his bird; but that hope soon gave way to fear. Had he failed? But thenArmand!
Lord Fancourt had given up talking since he found that he had no listener. He wanted an opportunity for slipping away: for sitting opposite to a lady, however fair, who is evidently not heeding the most vigorous efforts made for her entertainment, is not exhilarating, even to a Cabinet Minister.
Shall I find out if your ladyships coach is ready, he said at last, tentatively.
Oh, thank you thank you if you would be so kind I fear I am but sorry company but I am really tired and, perhaps, would be best alone.
She had been longing to be rid of him, for she hoped that, like the fox he so resembled, Chauvelin would be prowling round, thinking to find her alone.
But Lord Fancourt went, and still Chauvelin did not come. Oh! what had happened? She felt Armands fate trembling in the balance she fearednow with a deadly fearthat Chauvelin had failed, and that the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel had proved elusive once more; then she knew that she need hope for no pity, no mercy, from him.
He had pronounced his Eitheror and nothing less would content him: he was very spiteful, and would affect the belief that she had wilfully misled him, and having failed to trap the eagle once again, his revengeful mind would be content with the humble preyArmand!
Yet she had done her best; had strained every nerve for Armands sake. She could not bear to think that all had failed. She could not sit still; she wanted to go and hear the worst at once; she wondered even that Chauvelin had not come yet, to vent his wrath and satire upon her.
Lord Grenville himself came presently to tell her that her coach was ready, and that Sir Percy was already waiting for herribbons in hand. Marguerite said Farewell to her distinguished host; many of her friends stopped her, as she crossed the rooms, to talk to her, and exchange pleasant au revoirs.
The Minister only took final leave of beautiful Lady Blakeney on the top of the stairs; below, on the landing, a veritable army of gallant gentlemen were waiting to bid Good-bye to the queen of beauty and fashion, whilst outside, under the massive portico, Sir Percys magnificent bays were impatiently pawing the ground.
At the top of the stairs, just after she had taken final leave of her host, she suddenly saw Chauvelin; he was coming up the stairs slowly, and rubbing his thin hands very softly together.
There was a curious look on his mobile face, partly amused and wholly puzzled, and as his keen eyes met Marguerites they became strangely sarcastic.
M. Chauvelin, she said, as he stopped on the top of the stairs, bowing elaborately before her, my coach is outside; may I claim your arm?
As gallant as ever, he offered her his arm and led her downstairs. The crowd was very great, some of the Ministers guests were departing, others were leaning against the banisters watching the throng as if filed up and down the wide staircase.
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